The politics of fear overrules wisdom or compassion? Or is it the ignorants?

by Aik Theng Chong, Singapore, The Buddhist Channel, March 2, 2017

The article ‘Why Buddhism, a religion of tolerance, is falling prey to hate speech’ opens with the statement that “The politics of fear overrules wisdom or compassion”. As this particular forum on ‘Between The Lines’ centres on the Buddhist faith, I would like to clarify that there is a vast different between what we would normally term ‘Worldly Wisdom’ and ‘Buddhist Wisdom’.

We would normally associate ‘Wisdom’ with knowledge gained through experience, being able to use good judgment and knowing what is proper or reasonable, and if it is not beneficial or may endanger our wellbeing, we may abandon it, such as our compassion when confronted by fear. But this is not exactly what Buddhist term "Wisdom".

In the Mahayanist tradition, Wisdom or rather Transcendental Wisdom arises with the realization of Emptiness of all phenomena. This is the rational, static aspect of wisdom. It is not about nihilism or nothingness. It is a personal intuitive realization that is beyond words. Compassion is the dynamic, emotional, practical aspect of wisdom. A person who have realized emptiness would not be a person who live in Fear at all. Not even with threats of death hanging over his head. He will also be one who is full of compassion for all sentient beings in whatsoever situation he is in. These are some of the hallmark of such a person.

So the general statement that ‘Fear overrules wisdom and compassion’ may have some truth for worldly wise individuals but it is certainly not true in the Buddhist context.

It was stated in the article that Buddhism as a religion of peace and empathy has fallen prey to hate. Really, what does ‘hate’ got to do with it when nowhere in the Pali Suttas does the Buddha taught anyone to hate another sentient being. It is certainly a fallacy to said that Buddhism has fallen prey to hate. The religion and its teachings will always remain pristine, pure and innocent. It is individuals and the Press that have carelessly and hopefully, unwittingly make the religion a victim of such unfound and untruth statement.

To feel and think one’s religion is the best and only truth is just a natural reaction. Otherwise, it would be silly for a person to take up and follows a particular Faith if he has doubts and does not think it is the best. It is also contradictory to said that if one believes that if one’s own religious values to be paramount one would fear that it would be under threat from another religion. If it is paramount, why would such doubt ever develop in the first place? It is sheer ignorance and arrogance if such situation happens.